Inside the training facilities of the Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre (MLIRC) -- amidst the firing, strategy and counter-strike operation sessions – there are two men in uniform on a different mission. They wage a battle of a different kind, capturing the minds and hearts of the recruits and soldiers. Armed with time-tested soothing weapons, such as moral values, love, counselling and prayers, these men are among the most-sought-after souls at this military camp.
On the rolls of the Indian Army, Subedar Shri Krishna Pathak (45) and Havildar Abdul Rasheed (38) are the Religious Teachers (RTs) – spreading the essence of the Bhagavat Gita and the Holy Quran. They too are posted out after completing their tenure with a particular regiment or a unit.
The RTs, popularly known as the Panditji and Moulavi Saab across the MLIRC lines, have undertaken combat training at the time of joining the Army. “I have can handle pistols and light machine guns (LMGs). If the situation warrants I am ready to get on to the battle gears. But, my main job here is to motivate the soldiers and they always open their hearts to me,” says Subedar Pathak, hailing from Samastipur in Bihar.
He says the RTs act as a bridge between the officers and the soldiers. “There are many issues that are haunting a solider like any other human being. It could be related to stress, homesickness, land-related issues back home, concerns following high-altitude appointments and health of family members. I listen to the problems and in most cases a solution is found,” says the Subedar, who has served in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and in Kargil.
While both RTs use Bhagavat Gita and the Holy Quran extensively, it is the love and affection they give to the soldiers which give the healing touch. “It’s not possible in the Army to get leaves as and when you want. At the same time, it is not difficult to get, if you plan it properly. They come to me with their leave-related worries. But, my job is to ensure that a recruit or a soldier is always at peace with himself,” says Havildar Rasheed, hailing from Hyderabad.
During the FDR (final dress rehearsal) at the centre on Thursday (March 28), ahead of an all-important Attestation Passing Out Parade to be held on Saturday (March 30) at the Talekar Drill Square inside the camp, both RTs were in their full military attire and honours. Holding Bhagavat Gita and the Holy Quran, they were escorted to the centre of the square, while the recruits (ready to become soldiers), held their hands forwards taking the pledge.